Marlo Gertz grew up making cookies and brownies and big messes in the kitchen on a regular basis. After working in software and digital marketing for several years, she traded in account management for cookies and used her Russian grandmother’s secret recipe to launch Marlo’s Bakeshop in 2012. Marlo’s goal is to one be a household name in premium, wholesome baked goods.
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In this episode you’ll learn:
- How Marlo left her full time job, moved to CA, and started her company
- How she took it seriously and made it her full time job
- Her big mistake with UPC codes
Tell us a little bit about you, Marlo Gertz, and what you do.
I was just a bit unhappy with my day-to-day role at a software company and wasn’t very excited or feeling any passion for what I was doing on a daily basis. I tried to stop and think about what I really enjoyed and baking was always a hobby of mine. I found myself always making cookies and brownies for my colleagues and finding joy in seeing the plate get emptied as quickly as possible.
At that time, my boyfriend at that time was living across the street from this small cooking school in San Francisco called Taunt Maris. They had a part-time pastry program which really sounded ideal to me because I didn’t have to quit my job and go back to school full-time in order to get a pastry education. I was able to work all day at the software company and then 2 nights a week go to Taunt Maris to bake from about 6-10 at night. Every other Saturday we would have an 8 hour class. It was a 6-month program but it was incredibly comprehensive. We really touched on all facets of classic French pastry technique from laminated doughs to breads to soufflés, and we just had a ball. I was really inspired by other women who had gone through the program and had started successful pastry companies.
I have a secret recipe that was grandmother’s and she passed it down to me. Everybody was obsessed with it when I was an adolescent. I was pretty naive but I was like, “How hard can it be? If they can do it, I can do it.” Like they say, “Ignorance is bliss.” For me at that point it really was because if I knew then what I know now, I probably would’ve been too timid to really go for it. I technically registered the company in August of 2012. I worked full time for another year and dabbled one of those bake shop on nights and weekends and then I took the plunge and quit my job and started working full time with Marla’s Bakeshop at the end of 2013.
How did you go from full time software job and side gig to making Marlo’s Bakeshop your full time thing?
The first year that we were in business, I really wanted to take the opportunity to do R and D. Do some research. Find suppliers of the ingredients that I needed. Find the best quality or the best version of the chocolate chips and the freshest farm-fresh walnuts. It was nice was that I wasn’t under the gun financially to pay my bills. I was able to do this research and kind of sit back and relax to some degree because I still had a job. I still had an income and a salary, knowing in the back of my mind that I was going to eventually quit and go full time. I was also a little bit more disciplined with my savings plan. I spent that year sampling out the cookies, making sure that people outside of my family really enjoyed them as much as my family did. We were also able to take that time and really slowly develop the packaging which I’ve come to realize now is so critical for a packaged product. Your packaging is really the first thing that people see. It’s the first impression, and we really took our time with the first iteration of the Marlo’s Bakeshop packaging. I went into coffee shops in San Francisco and even thought the cookies didn’t have packaging, I gave them in a jar to see how they go and see if customers liked them. I got some great feedback from the cafés that I was working with. That gave me the confidence that when I finally have a packaged product I said, “If I want this to go anywhere I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to live off my savings, and I’m going to just hustle and hand out samples to everybody and anybody who will tell me that they are interested in tasting them.”
In all of this craziness in the past 4 years, what would you say is your most proud moment?
I think the moments that I will always remember and that make it all worth it is when I get a review from my customer and they just love the products. They love our cookies. They say how delicious they are or they gave them as a gift and people raved about them.
How did you come up with your sales strategy?
I think my initial sales strategy was totally contradictory to what I’m actually doing now. I thought it would be great to have customers in every state. I just wanted the Marlo’s Bakeshop brand out there. I think that there’s a stronger strategy and a stronger message if you work in concentric circles around your home base and really try and build up the brand where you live. You can say, “I’m local,” and that really resonates with people. What I did and what I continue to do is sit down and talk to everybody and anybody who I think is smart and who is willing to spend time with me. I tried to surround myself with a board of advisers, mentors, and people that I recognize that are doing a good job in business and say, “Can I pick your brain for 15 minutes? Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on my strategy or what you’ve done in the past that has worked really well.”
Marlo Gertz is a SF-born Jersey girl. She has always been a foodie with an insatiable appetite for travel, restaurant-going, and sweets. She launched Marlo’s Bakeshop in 2012 with her Russian grandmother’s secret recipe for soft-baked biscotti.
Barcode Resource based on Marlo’s tried and true experience.
Join me and Gerolsteiner for a FREE 5 Day (Water) Detox! After summer I have been on iced coffee overload and I’m ready for a drink detox. It’s just about replacing my coffee and anything else for 5 days with Gerolstiner sparkling mineral water.